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Dolly Parton's Love Affair with Hair

This week, I wrote an article for True Urban Culture Magazine about Dolly Parton and her affair with hair. Here's the link to the full article.

I hadn't thought about it too much before I did my article research, but Dolly Parton deserves a lot of credit in the hair loss community. She has been open about wearing wigs since the beginning of her career more than 50 years ago! I talk a lot here about the normalization of hair loss, so I really appreciate all that Dolly has done for the world of wig wearing.

In the rest of this post, I've provided some excerpts from my piece to share some background on Dolly Parton's decades long romance with wigs. So, without further ado...

Famous for her platinum blonde teased-up locks, Miss Dolly has never been embarrassed to admit that her trademark look did not grow out of her own head.

Despite having thin hair from a young age, Parton aspired toward hair even bigger than the glamorous Hollywood hair that began appearing in the 1950s on icons like Marilyn Monroe. She ultimately took that hair to a new level, sparking a standard “look” for country music singers that has persisted through present times.

However, Dolly knew that the dye, heat, products, and styling manipulation required to achieve the looks she wanted would ultimately take a toll on her fine hair. In “Songteller: My Life in Lyrics,” Parton writes about longing for a hairpiece in her adolescence.

“I wanted to feel like the way I thought all the movie stars in Hollywood did.”

Perhaps forecasting a career in the spotlight of more than five decades, the star was smart to consider longevity when planning her hallmark image. She purchased her first hairpiece as soon as she could afford one, just after signing her first record deal.

“I always wore my hair all teased up. Whenever that style started, I was the first to get my hair all poofy. Then, as soon as I could buy those hairpieces and wigs, I wanted them.” (Mirror)

On multiple occasions, Dolly has referred to her wigs as “handy,” citing their functionality as a primary reason for her vast collection.

In a 2014 interview with Jimmy Fallon, she explained her wigs as a time-saver, a ready-to-go option for a woman so often short on time. She told Fallon, “It’s so handy, and I’m always so busy.”

In her book, she emphasizes a similar sentiment for practicality: “For one thing, [wigs] were so handy. Plus my hair would never do exactly what I wanted it to. So the wigs became kind of my trademark.”

For a woman who has written over 3,000 songs and recorded roughly 450, who owns a publishing company, two production companies, as well as a theme park, Dollywood, where would she ever find the time to do her hair?

With years of practice, as well as a personal stylist dedicated to wig care, Dolly has managed to fine-tune her routine into just 15 minutes of makeup and hair before showtime.

In 1977, Barbara Walters asked Dolly just how long it takes to do her hair. Her reply: “I don’t know — ‘cause I’m never there!” (CBS).

Many forget that although Dolly gained fame from other myriad talents and endeavors, she was the first to begin the normalization of wig wearing.

Embracing wigs as hair of her own on the public stage for more than 50 years, Dolly Parton pioneered the use of wigs as an accessory, an especially empowering move to women who rely on wigs to hide hair loss.

Within the hair-loss community on social media, Dolly Parton quotes are contagious, with photo captions often echoing famous Dolly lines like “Why don’t I just wear wigs? That way, I never have a bad hair day! I have a big hair day, but not a bad hair day,” and “If anyone tells you your hair is too big, get rid of them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.”

In revealing her natural hair this Tuesday, Dolly Parton has only reminded us how groundbreaking her now mainstream mane has been for the world of wigs.

“You can’t take all this hair from me, because it’s part of this thing that I’ve become.”

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